My Four Walls

Christmas.

I LOVE it! I love everything about it.

I love the sparkle, the sounds, the smells, the smiles.

I love the kindness. I love how it brings out the best in so many people.

I love the glitter, the happy and the magic…

But what I don’t love,  is the pressure placed on us by the interweb to create magical, Christmas card worthy Hallmark moments.

It’s started already; Instagranny and Bookface are full of pictures of beautiful trees and perfect living rooms.  None of us posted the mess of them being put up though did we!? 

Myself included.  Of course not.  We want to show the world our best smile don’t we? We want to give the general idea that we’ve got our sh*t together inside our own four walls.

And this year, not being able to visit our friends and families has led to more people sharing their images online.  

Any newsfeed is filled with festive fun; trees going up, garlands being made, fancy glasses with tipples by the fire, smiles and joy.  Houses now seem to be “themed”, and showhouse worthy. 

 It’s rather cool to look at in fairness and isn’t it wonderful how we can share ideas and get inspiration simply by watching other people’s posts?

And it’s lovely for us to see inside the four walls of the cousins or friends who we know we probably won’t be able to visit this year.  

Stupid Covid…

The selfies from Christmas shopping trips have been largely replaced by snaps of boxes and packages arriving on doorsteps, accompanied by hashtags joking about the #postmanismybestfriend or #cantrememberwhatIordered.

The staff parties and large get-togethers are whittled down.

It’s all pretty different isn’t it? 

And yet, what stays the same is that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. 

Maybe you have one tree that is still in the attic and will stay there until the 20th?  That’s OK.

Maybe you have two different trees with a mishmash of colours and decorations as old as you?  Fablis.

Maybe you’re quite happy to leave the tree as it is after the kids have decorated it and it warms your heart to see all of the decorations around the bottom.  Class. 

Maybe you let them at the tree, but absolutely fix the whole thing after they’ve gone to bed?  You are my people Mammas.

Maybe you don’t give a hoot if your decorations are multicoloured and not in any way planned.  That’s brilliant! 

Maybe you prefer to put the tree up yourself rather than creating an illusion of family fecking JOY.  Go for it. 

Maybe you don’t see the point in matching Pjs.  Don’t buy them.

Maybe you hate turkey.  Don’t buy turkey. 

Maybe you don’t like mulled wine…or the smell of cinnamon?  Don’t buy those candles.

Maybe you don’t wrap every single present… once again, my people. 

Maybe you don’t get professional photos done.  There is no law in fairness.  

Maybe you can’t face going to see a Santa this year.  Your call Mammy. Your call. 

Maybe you are devastated that you can’t see certain people this Christmas. We all are.

Maybe you are quietly NOT devastated to not see certain people…that’s OK too! 

Maybe Christmas is grating on your nerves and you can’t even begin to process it because of your own personal circumstances.  To you, beautiful Queen, I send all my love. 

If this year has taught us anything, it is that what happens outside our four walls (or outside of our own bubble), really does not matter. 

Christmas will happen, whether it’s quiet and understated, or extravagant and instaperfect. 

On the 25th, we’ll wake up.  We’ll do what we need to do and then on the 26th, we’ll get on with it again. 

I adore Christmas.  I love it. I’m missing some things and some people this year.  We all are. 

I’m looking forward to closing the doors of my own messy four walls and to spending some much needed down time with my own people…

 But I’m very very aware that it’s not the same for us all.  Especially this year. 

Remember that what you see online is contrived.  It is not always real.  In fact, even the most “real” people that you follow, CHOOSE what to show you. 

If you find yourself doubting your choices, or second guessing your Christmas, or feeling poop about yourself, do yourself a favour. 

Hit mute or unfollow. 

Don’t watch people who make you feel second, or less. 

Your Christmas will be what you make it.  And what happens within the four walls of other people, doesn’t matter one iota. 

No is a Complete Sentence…Especially at Christmas

Remember

No is a complete sentence.

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You can say NO to things without having to add explanation.   Add a thanks if you wish, but only if you want to,

  • Want to join in Secret Santa at work? No.
  • Do you want to go for after work drinks on Black Eye Friday? No.
  • Want to come visit Aunty Petunia on Christmas Eve even though she spends her time telling you you’ve put on weight/aged badly/need to change your hair? No.
  • Want to put in €10 for teacher’s present because someone else decides it’s a good idea. No.
  • Want to donate to Arthur’s sponsored swim? No.
  • Want to go to Smuffs in the busiest part of town at 4pm on Friday to do me a favour? No.
  • Want to invite Cousin JohnJoe over to burp at Christmas dinner? No.
  • Want to come watch little Japonica playing the unicorn in her 3 hour long school play? Nope.

Now, let me clarify.  I am NOT telling you, nor am I encouraging you, to be a selfish turbotwat.  Some things have to be tolerated.  Aunty Nancy’s silent but violent farts are not a just reason to leave her alone on Christmas. And you can’t refuse to go for dinner in your own house just because you fell out with your partner’s sister-in-law’s dog three years ago.  Some things need you to chuck it in the fuckit bucket and suck it up for the people you DO care about.

Christmas is wonderful, but it’s also a time of high stress and worry, where people and traditions and expectations are forced upon us.  And while of course, we must all buckle down and stretch ourselves to accomodate the people we care about, love or are responsible for, we are NOT OBLIGED to keep EVERYONE HAPPY.

If something is going to cause you stress, worry, financial strain or conflict, don’t do it. 

If something is going to make your life difficult and really, you are not harming anyone by refusing, don’t do it.

If something is going to have a negative impact on YOUR mental wellbeing, think long and hard about it. 

If you can’t afford it, don’t go/do/buy it.

If you can’t deal with it, don’t put yourself through it. 

If you can’t stand it, don’t do it. 

And while we’re at it, do remember that you don’t HAVE to do things a certain way. 

Want to eat curry or lasagne for Christmas dinner? Knock yourself out. 

Don’t want to put up a tree? Don’t.

Don’t want to/can’t afford to buy presents for Tom, Dick and Harry this year? Don’t.

Can’t be bothered putting on good clothes and a full face to sit in your sitting room all day? Stay in your Pjs. 

Hate “It’s a Wonderful Life”? Don’t watch it. 

There is no Christmas Fairy-Poppins who goes around looking in your windows to check that you’re getting your Hallmark on.

You do You.

And you DO have the right, and the ability, to say NO.

And as I said, NO, is a complete sentence.  It doesn’t require an explanation.

Someone asks why?  Simply answer with one of the following:

Just because. 

It doesn’t suit. 

I don’t want to.  

I said no.

And whoever it is that you’re worried that you’re going to upset, will get over it.  Chances are, they really won’t even notice.

And Christmas will pass and 2020 will start and we’ll all get on with our lives and whether or not you turned up to sing carols with Carol will be forgotten as quickly as the Strawberry Quality Street.

friends-thanksgiving

 

 

Stuff your “Survival Guides” with Holly…falalalalaaaa

It’s the weekend of Toy Shows and trees for many…
So I am posting my Christmas Survival Guide for the Mary of the Poppins types…

“Surviving Christmas,” “Christmas Survival Tips for the Working Mum”, “How to Survive Christmas”…

I googled these last night.

Some of the “advice” online is nothing short of HILARIOUS. I fear most of it may have been written by one of the following:

🎄Mary-of-the-Poppins herself

🎄Someone without kids

🎄A Man… 😂😂😂

Here are some of the best pieces I gleaned, followed by my honest and polite responses: (Buckle up!)

1. “Be Prepared.”

No sh*t Sherlock. As opposed to waking on Christmas Eve and remembering to buy a turkey and gifts? Seriously… This is a useless piece of advice.

It’s like telling a woman to ‘calm down’. When in the history of the world has telling a woman to ‘calm down’, resulted in her calming down? Never. So telling a Mammy to “Be Prepared” for Christmas, is NOT helpful.

2. “Buy gifts throughout the year and wrap them as you go.”

Now this one I can partially agree with, except THIS Mammy’s version would read “Buy gifts throughout the year, put them somewhere safe and then forget all about them until the week before Christmas, when you have all the gifts bought and then open a box or bag or suitcase and find all the PawPatrol jigsaws you bought in July.
Or even better, find them when you’re putting the decorations away in January!”

3. “Choose a theme for your gifts to add that personal magic”.

Here’s a theme. ShutthefuckUp.
Most of us just about manage to buy for everyone we have to buy for. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll remember someone on Christmas Day and freak out with guilt and embarrassment and mumble some crap about it not being delivered on time, before popping to the loo to order on Amazon with next day delivery.

(But if you doooooo want to add a personal touch and be remembered fondly by your loved ones, put glitter🦄 into all of the cards and gifts so that their floors get clattered and you are applauded for spreading the magic of Christmas. Go ahead, I dare you! 😂😂)

4. “Place delicate or expensive ornaments on higher branches.”

Go higher Jacinta…
Put delicate or expensive decorations in the ATTIC and leave them there until 2029. (if you have kids or dogs.)

5. “Ice the Christmas Cake 2 weeks before Christmas”

Or in real life, remember on the 23rd that for some reason you need a Christmas cake to have in the kitchen which will never be cut or eaten.
Then you’ll either pop to Marks of the Spensive or decide not to bother with cake this year. Either way, it doesn’t really matter does it?

6. “Decorating the home should be a family occasion followed by a family meal.”

Oh really? Should it really? If by “family meal” you mean a bottle of wine after the kids have all gone to bed, then yes…yes this is true. 😅

Decorating the home is, for most, a painful and highly stressful process which generally takes more than one afternoon and involves tears, mess and even declarations of divorcing children… and husbands. If you can get the actual tree up in one go, save yourself the stress and put everything else up by yourself, on your own, without the rest of the family annoying your head. After bedtime is ideal.😘😉

7. “Keep alcohol locked away.”

Out of the reach of children yes, but keep the key in your frilly fricking apron Mammy Poppins.

8. “Stock up on essentials: batteries, bread, milk and cream.”

Why there is no gin or wine on this list, is beyond me.

9. “Go Christmas Shopping without children. Bring a drink and a snack with you.”

Who the hell wrote this?
If I get to go Christmas shopping without the children, you can me DAMN sure that I am sitting this ass on a fancy seat and having someone called Barista CARRY me the drinks and snack that they have lovingly made FOR me.

10. “Create a cleaning schedule for your home to keep on top of things this Christmas”.

There aren’t enough swear words for this one.

A Cleaning Schedule? Who the hell has time to write a cleaning schedule? In the time it would take me to write a cleaning schedule, I would probably have half the cleaning done. If you can keep floors lego free and counters salmonella free, you’re doing great! You deserve a treat. 💚

Riddle me this Mammies? Why would you spend hours cleaning before opening the boxes of decorations that are going to cause the whole place to need hoovered and dusted again in an hour anyway? Why?

So there were the Top Ten pieces of advice from the various Perfect Mammy websites…

There were a few little nuggets in fairness. Some of the better advice included “Scale down your expectations”, “Invent your own traditions”, and “Give yourself a break.”

Another gem that I completely agree with is “Buy disposable baking trays”: I stock up on aluminium turkey trays every year and everything is cooked in them. It’s a life saver!

Also, Yes to shopping lists. And sublists. (Any list! I do love me a list!)

Plan your meals for Christmas week and do the shopping based on the list. It will save you from buying piles of stuff that you won’t actually use. Will you actually use that goose fat or are you only buying it because it’s beside the cranberry sauce you’ve lifted…that no one in your house eats. I still have ALL of the spices I bought LAST YEAR, unopened and fresh and ready to not be used again this year. #notions

AND remember to factor in Christmas Eve Dinner too. Don’t do my speciality… realise you have a fridge full of food and nothing for the dinner when you finally get back to the house on Christmas Eve. This will lead to arguments about who is going to the shop AGAIN, or toast for dinner.

The “Preparing for Christmas” articles largely did what they always do however; they put undue pressure on already busy parents to stress themselves to create a Hallmark worthy perfect Christmas card-esque scene that, in reality, is nonsense.

Do what YOU want to do. Buy what YOU can afford. Cook what YOU like to eat. If you don’t like mince pies, don’t fricken buy them. If you want to let your kids open all of the presents on Christmas morning, do it! If you like to wrap all the everything, do so.

If you don’t, DON’T!

It’s that simple. We don’t need a survival list to survive Christmas, we need to give ourselves a break and enjoy it, because if you take a second to stop and look around you, often in the midst of lost presents and superfluous food shopping, you can see a little bit of magic without having to buy it.

A perfect family Christmas is like a Perfect Parent… all that’s REALLY needed is love and what works for YOU!

What is your favourite “Survival tip” and why?

Still 4 months to Go Mum

It’s the end of August; which if you believe the Interweb and the Instafluencers, means it’s practically January already.

So apparently it’s time for Happy New Year already?

Eh. No.

Ok, I will agree that once August arrives, I get a bellyflip of panic.  It means the long (and for once glorious!) summer is almost over.   It means it’s high time I was sorting Mini-Me for Back to School.  It means that time is limited to get through the mile long to-do in the summer list I wrote on the first day of her holidays.  It means everyone trying to cram all the things on the “Things to do this Summer” lists into what’s left of their weekends.

But it also means return to routine, which if your house is anything like mine, is something that I can not deny missing.

And then begins September; a month of sunshine and still long evenings where the dust settles on the chaos of the summer months and where Fridays take on a whole new meaning.

Then comes October, with the crisp coolness and warm colours and the excitement and build up to Halloween.

And then we have November, the month which will last 498 days and drive us all to stews and hot whiskeys and panics about how it’s nearly time for Santa Season and we haven’t even “started yet”…

And then it’s December and there’s a whole month of glitter and Christmas and Grinches and never-ending darkness and fires and heating blasting and cold and ice…

And we have ALL of that to do before we even think about next year.

So while YES, once the end of August arrives, the end of the year does suddenly seem right around the corner, in reality, we still have 4 whole months until then.  4 whole months of birthdays and new beginnings and fighting and eating and laughing and growing and sniffling and working and parenting and everything else that our lives entail.

So take it easy on allowing memes and such online images to make you feel like you’re losing time.  You’re not.

And as for those 101 things to do with your kids this summer lists, which are now makig you feel like shit because you didn’t 34. frolick in the park or 27. chase butterflies or 49. take a trip on a train or 30. create a fucking Ant hotel or 793. bake cookies and sell lemonade…  bin them.  Those lists are created by people who live in Lala Land, where there are actual trains. Not Donegal.

So, You didn’t make it to every waterfall or family day out you’d planned.  Your kids didn’t get to go on nature walks every day.  You didn’t get that catch up with your cousin that you’ve been promising each other all year.  You didn’t actually get that night out with your besties that you’ve been putting off until summer since January.  You didn’t get your children to the top of a mountain. You didn’t make it to the beach and the fancy picnic basket remains unused since last year…

So what?

Who says these things have to be done in summer?  What’s wrong with getting that family trip in September if it suits your work better?  Why can’t you go to Glenveagh or to the beach in October? Who says that all of these things have to be done within school holidays?

So while these images and memes are quirky and cute and we find ourselves laughing or nodding in inst-agreement, they’re just another example of how we’re letting strangers online affect our own perceptions of our own lives.  Instead of thinking “sure the year’s nearly over”, ask yourself what you can still do and fit in and enjoy in the 5 months that are left…until next year, where guess what? We start all over again!

Scrap the summer bucket list and make up a new one for yourself and your family that doesn’t have a deadline.

Because yes, summer is done and dusted, but thankfully, there are 3 other seasons and no one is measuring you, except yourself.

 

Are you following The S-Mum Blog on Social Media?  Find her Facebook here and read her blog here.

 

 

Great Expectations Vs Greater Reality

Christmas.

I LOVE it! I love everything about it.  I love the sparkle, the sounds, the smells, the smiles.  I love the kindness. I love how it brings out the best in so many people.

But what I don’t love, is the pressure placed on us by the interweb to create magical, Christmas card worthy Hallmark moments. It’s started already; Instagranny and Bookface are full of pictures of beautiful trees and perfect living rooms.  None of us posted the mess of them being put up though did we!? Myself included.  Of course not.  We want to show the world our best smile don’t we? We want to give the general idea that we’ve gont our sh*t together.

MY Christmas Eve shall be fablis. Here’s how it shall look if I post it online.

Some last minute, calm and fun shopping in town, a family breakfast with my siblings and all of our minions, a quick visit to the grandparents’ homes and then home, where Mammy will wear her apron and help the girls make homemade cookies for Santa, create perfect Belgian hot chocolate for them before snuggling up to watch a movie.  Then, I prep all of the veg etc for Christmas dinner.  Then, as Daddy bathes the girls and gets them ready for bedtime, Mammy shall pour a little drop of mulled wine and begin creating the turkey. We shall have some hearty homemade soup for tea and mammy shall double check her lists to ensure that all is done.  In a whirlwind of excitement, the girls shall leave out their fablis homemade cookies, a carrot and some milk for Santa. They’ll sprinkle reindeer food on the steps and go to bed, happy and excited.

Then, Daddy shall pop a bottle of bubbles, we’ll finish wrapping presents and then we’ll cozy up on the sofa and wait for Santa.

REALITY CHECK

The last minute shopping will not be calm and fun, unless you have someone to sit in the car with minions while you pop in and out of shops.

Family breakfast WILL be fun, but it will most likely also be filled with nyaming and crying, with things like “She’s sitting on meeee”, “He got more berries” and “Stop that nonsense now!”.  The adults will eat breakfast, pretending to have jovial conversation, but really just throwing random and disconnected statements at each other between bouncing the kids.

Visiting – Yes, but the over excited and wound up kiddies will be needing a sleep by then and there is a high chance of tantrums forecast once a loving and caring  Grandparent enters the room.  Add sugar before wrestling kids into car.  Perfect!

Bake cookies:  Buy a box of cookie mix. Add an egg and there you go.  Mary Poppins indeed.

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Hot chocolate: Not Belgian.  Not fancy.  Straight from the coffee machine pods. Plop in the marshmallows and she’s happy out..

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Movie:  In my head it’s Miracle on 34th Street, in reality it’ll be ELF again for 38 minutes before Ben and Holly return.  And it’ll be grand, because Mammy will realistically be watching it from the kitchen.

Homemade soup: HAHAHAHAHA! I’m not that organised.  I go to Mum’s on Christmas Eve and steal a lunchbox full of hers.  No point in both of us making it, is there?

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Mulled wine:  Buy a jar or packet. Slosh in some cheap wine and orange juice.  Done.  (Oh, and if you don’t like mulled wine, why the heck are you making it?)

Prepping dinner:  This I DO do.  Not because I’m Mary Poppins, but because the only thing any Mammy needs to be peeling on Christmas Day is the paper off presents (or the foil of my Chocolate Orange!)  PS.  Did you know you can buy PRE-PEELED SPUDS!?  Go for it Mammy.  It’s Christmas after all!

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Lists:  Once you’re home, scrap the lists. Whatever you haven’t bought by then, doesn’t need bought.  I will do a last To Do list, just to remind me of what needs done before I can sit on my backside for a few glasses of grapes later.  TIP: Write some stuff you’ve already done so you’ll feel better that there are a few lines through it already.

Bedtime: Yes it will be exciting, but it will also be frantic with two children who can’t control their highly stimulated and sugar induced emotion, and full of threats of “If you’re not sleeping, Santa won’t come”.  Eventually, Mini-Me will succumb to sleep, but them going straight to bed and nodding off instantly is as possible as me getting a Chanel coat. Then you get to start to tidy and clean and do all the other stuff that needs doing, just like every other day.  And who will notice or care if your sitting room looks perfect?

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Presents: If you don’t like wrapping stuff, don’t.  Keep it simple. You don’t need fancy curled ribbons.  They do not need to be Pinterest worthy.  Tell people the kids wrapped them, or better still, buy Christmas gift bags.  Sorted.  Santa doesn’t have time to wrap presents in my mind. Santa has better things to do.

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Waiting for Santa?  Yeah.  After 2 hours of tiptoeing about the place, forgetting where things are and trying not to wake the kids with rustling bags, as you try not to KILL each other!   Then you finally sit down to “relax” before realising that the kids will be up in, oh… approximately 4 hours!

Seriously though.

Relax.

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Christmas will come and go. It is magical and wonderful, but it is also what you make it. I just HOPE my Christmas is exactly as I have described, because cheats and realities and all, it’s MY perfect. No one else’s.

The Christmas inspector is not going to visit on Christmas morning to check if your home in Hallmark worthy.  NO ONE actually cares that you wrap EVERY SINGLE ONE of the presents.  No one cares what your kids get from Santa.  No one cares if you have your hair brushed. No one cares if you’re all in matching PJs. And the only person whose opinion matters on these things, is you.

While we like to see people we like and care about looking happy on Christmas morning, remember that you are under NO obligation to post pics  or share ANYTHING on social media.  You are also under no obligation to even look at other people’s photographs on social media.

If looking at other’s “perfect Christmas” makes you feel crappy, put down the device and look at what’s in front of you .

Chances are, your perfect Christmas is right there in front of you…in the real world. Chaos and all.

Enjoy it!